Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, August 24, 2009

Middle (Age) March

Monday -- er, that is, today, although I'm actually off to bed now -- is my forty-fourth birthday.

I begin teaching the fall term later in the week, on Thursday, and so my vacation comes to an end all too soon, after teaching too many too much too intensely for too long this last half-year.

This has been a real vacation, though -- for a week now I haven't blogged particularly, you may have noticed, and I haven't paid any attention to the news for the first time in what seems like years, since well before the 2000 election debacle certainly, and I haven't surveyed any of the latest vulgar sales-pitches brute-brained futurologists think of as "thinking."

My companion instead has been an old friend, George Eliot's Middlemarch, and an intelligence that enriches, elicits, and elevates rather than debases, disgusts, depresses...

What a joy and relief and demand Middlemarch is! Have you read it? Have you re-read it?

I doubt the soopergeniuses of the Robot Cult would have much time for such a thing, nor the lying armies of the complacent middle or the tumescent right.

Middlemarch is a drama consisting essentially of the delineation of humane consciousness, as a richly historical, lushly overdetermined concern (check out the etymology of that word, concern, if you want a story worth thinking on). Setting aside the dramatic twists and turns and vivid characters and so on, the stuff you can skim off the back cover of a paperback or drink in through a sun-dappled BBC dramatization, Middlemarch is really the drama of intellectual, ethical, poetical consciousness, all at once, inter-implicated, from the beginning to the end, and I mean from the very first words to the very last ones, an illustration of and, even more crucially, a provocation to real adult liberality of mind.

Maybe you already know those famous last words of the book, probably the best most beautiful words to close any novel in my estimation: "But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

Even if you haven't read the book the words are moving, but reading them at the end of the reading of the book, even if you already knew them by heart, is nothing you can be prepared for, like a conversion experience that is the throwing off of infantile conversions for good, indeed, for the growing good of the world.

It seems to me, as it happens, that both futurological bulldozers and the ongoing heartbreak of politics are woven into the web of life Eliot discerns (there's a story in that word, too, by the way). And I'll be returning to both subjects soon enough, sure enough. For a couple more days, though, I'm staying away from here, if it's all the same to you. Thanks for all the birthday messages in my inbox and elsewhere!


Athena Andreadis said...

I read Middlemarch, and found its observations of the human condition acute. However, I think that in deliberately mismatching all the characters except for the working class couple, Eliot displayed too heavy an authorial hand. This grates (on me, at least), diminishing the impact of the story.

For example, it's unclear that Dorothea Brooke is any more fulfilled long-term with Will Ladislaw than she was with that dried cod (sans codpiece) Casaubon -- although it's obvious that both marriages were "ideologically" inspired on her part. This may highlight a defining character attribute, but it speaks ill of her vaunted intelligence.

Given Eliot's own life choices, Dorothea could cohabit with Will. This would allow her to keep her inheritance, though it would most likely debar her from motherhood (unless she was truly brave).

Lydgate's failing, the reluctance of intelligent men to pair with women whose intellect equals theirs, is more believable and so is Rosamond's grasping of tangibles in lieu of intellectual/emotional content.

PML said...

ENjOY the Middle.

jimf said...

> My companion instead has been an old friend,
> George Eliot's _Middlemarch_. . . What a joy
> and relief and demand Middlemarch is! Have you
> read it? Have you re-read it?

Only _The Mill on the Floss_, I'm afraid.

Nato Welch said...

Happy birth-Dale!

Jarrett said...

Dale, I get no end of joy from this post. As you know in my heart of hearts I am constantly indicted by George Eliot's depth and generousness of spirit. I believe it forms the basis of my notions of "the importance of art" as I hope to practice (I would make Middlemarch one of THE ten books of required reading for all artists and thinkers!) I am endlessly struck by the atmospheric nature of her writing, as though the fragrance of wet hay flows from its pages as they turn, sensually enveloping one in its diaphanous webbing. Thus the necessity of cannons and you know, silly things like authorities, to preserve this strain in our cultural DNA…OH Dale, I miss you. PLEASE come to dinner.

Robin said...

Happy birthday, Dale!

My own birthday was Friday, and I almost emailed you these pictures of 2 things Joshua gave me. I thought you'd enjoy them on the same level I do (courtesy of the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.):

(They also have a can of "intelligence" that I'll be buying to use as a prop in my AI class.)

AND! Apparently one can try on capes and stand on top of a windy grating in the store itself. The superhuman, indeed.

Bryn Esplin said...

Happy Birthday, Professor Carrico! I was just speaking about my thesis to my LSAT tutor, Jason Swallow, whom apparently audited your course 'technologies of consciousness'. If you decide to come to Las Vegas to celebrate, two fellow rhetoricians will take you out!

jimf said...

"Happy b. . ."

"Oh, dahling. Oh, God, how old am I?
No, don't tell me dahling. I'm. . . I'm. . ."

"You're f. . ."

"NOOO! . . .

Dahling, look out the window. Are the buzzards

Absolutely Fabulous - Birthday 1/3

Absolutely Fabulous - Birthday 2/3

Absolutely Fabulous - Birthday 3/3